« FöregåendeFortsätt »
and observing where the balk and nonconformity to the rule is, and renewing his repentance for that, and amending it the next day, that still the present day may be the better for yesterday's error.
And surely there is much need of this, if we consider how we are encompassed about with hazards and snares, and a variety of temptations, and how little we have, either of strength to overcome, or wisdom to avoid them, especially they being secretly set and unseen (which makes them the more dangerous) every where in the way in which we must walk, and even in those ways where we least think. Every where does the enemy of our souls lay traps and snares for us; in our table, in our bed, in our company, and alone. If the heart be earthly and carnal, there is the snare of riches and gains, or pleasures, present, to think upon; and if they delight in spiritual things, that walk is not exempted neither; there are snares of doubtings, presumption, and pride; and in converse of one Christian with another, where spiritual affection hath been stirred, it turns often to carnal passions, as the Apostle says of the Galatians, They begin in the Spirit, and end in the flesho.
This observing and watching, as it is needful, so it is a very delightful thing, though it will be hard and painful to the unexperienced, to have a man's actions and words continually curbed; so that he cannot speak or do what he would: These are fetters and bonds, yet, to those that know it, it is a pleasure to gain experience, and to be more skilled in preventing the surprises of our enemies, and upon that to have something added to our own art, and to be more able to resist upon new occasions, and to find ourselves every day outstripping ourselves; that is the sweetest life in the world; the soul to be dressing itself for the espousals of the Great King, putting on more of the ornaments and beauties of holiness; that is our glory, to be made conformable to the image of God and of Jesus Christ. If an image had sense, it would desire nothing so niuch as to look on the original whence it received its name, and to become more and more like it: So it is the pleasure of renewed souls to be looking on him, and so growing daily more like him, whose living image they are, and to be fitting themselves for that day of glory, wherein they shall be like him in the perfection they are capable of: And this makes death more pleasant than life to the believer; that which seems so bitter to the most of men, is sweetened to them most wonderfully: The continual observance of a man's ways, keeping a watch continually over them; this casts a light upon the dark passage of death, which is at the end of that walk, and conveys him through to the fulness of life: So that man who observes himself and his ways through his life, hath little to do in examining them when he comes to die. That is a piece of strange folly, that we defer the whole, or a great part of our day's work to the twilight of the evening, and are so cruel to ourselves, as to keep the great load of our life, for a few hours or days, and for a painted sickly body. He who makss it his daily work to observe his ways, is not astonished when that day comes, which long before was familiar to him every day.
c Gal. iii. 3.
That I sin not with my tongue.] It is the wise man's advice, Keep thy heart with all diligence, or above all keeping, and he gives the satisfying reason of it, for out of it are the issues of life". Such as the spring is, so will the streams be; the heart is the spring from whence all the natural life and vital spirits flow through the body, and, in the Scripture sense, it is the spring of all our actions and conversation; for it sends ‘out emissaries through all, through the eye, hand, and all the senses and organs of the body, but through none more constantly and abundantly than the tongue: and therefore Solomon after these words, immediately adds, Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put
d Prov. iv. 23.
far from thee. The current of the heart runs in that channel; for it is the organ of societies, and is commonly employed in all the converse of men ; and we can still, when all the other members are useless, use our tongues in regretting their unfitness for their offices; so sick and old persons: thus David here, as it seems under some bodily sickness, labours to refrain his tongue; and, lest it should prove too strong for him, he puts a curb upon it; though it did not free him from inward frettings of his heart, yet he lays a restraint upon his tongue, to stay the progress of sin, that grows in vigour by going out, and produces and begets sin of the same kind in the hearts and mouths of others, when it passes from the heart to the tongue. The Apostle James does amply and excellently teach the great importance of ordering the tongue in all a Christian's life; but we are ever learning and never taught. We hear how excellent a guard this is to our lives, to keep a watch over our tongue; but I fear few of us gain the real advantage of this rule, and are far from the serious thoughts that a religious person had of this scripture, who, when he heard it read, retired himself for many years to the study of this precept, and made very good proficiency in it.
In all the disorders of the world, the tongue hath a great share; to let pass those irruptions of infernal furies, blasphemies and cursing, lying and uncharitable speeches; how much have we to account for unprofitable talking? It is a lamentable thing, that there is nothing, for the most part, in common entertainnents and societies of men together, but refuse and trash, as if their tongues were given them for no other end but to be their shame, by discovering their folly and weakness. As likewise that of impatient speech in trouble and affliction, which certainly springs from an unmortified spirit, that hath learned nothing of that great lesson of submission to the will of God; but for all the disorders of the tongue, the remedy must begin at the heart,
purge the fountain, and then the streams will be clean ; keep thy heart, and then it will be easy to keep thy tongue. It is a great help in the quality of speech, to abate in the quantity; not to speak rashly, but to ponder what we are going to say, Set a watch before the door of thy lips. He bids us not build it up like a stone wall, that nothing go in or come out; but he speaks of a door, which may be sometimes open, oft-times shut, but withal to have a watch standing before it continually. A Christian must labour to have his speech as contracted as can be, in the things of this earth; and even in divine things, our words should be few and wary. In speaking of the greatest things, it is a great point of wisdom not to speak much; that is David's resolution, to keep silence, especially before the wicked, who came to visit him, probably, when he was sick; while they were there, he held a watch before his lips, to speak nothing of God's hand on him, lest they should have mistaken him; and a man may have some thoughts of divine things, that were very impertinent to speak out indifferently to all sorts, even of good persons. This is a talkative age, and people contract a faculty to speak much in matters of religion, though their words for the most part be only the productions of their own brain, little of these things in their hearts. Surely these kind of speeches are as bad as any, when holy things are spoken of with a national freedom, where there is nothing but empty words. They who take themselves to solitude, choose the best and easiest part, if they have a warrant so to do: for this world is a tempestuous sea, in which there are many rocks, and a great difficulty it is to steer this little helm aright amidst them: however, the apostle James makes it a great character of a Christian's perfection, If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man. But where is that man? Seeing we find men generally, and most of all ourselves, so far e Psal. cxli. 3.
Chap. iii. 2.
from this, it cannot choose but work this, to stir up ardent desires in us, to be removed to that blessed society, where there shall be never a word amiss, not a word too much.
Ver. 2. I was dumb with silence : I held my peace even from
good; and my sorrow was stirred. 3. My heart was hot within me; while I was musing the fire
burned: then spake I with my tongue.
Ir is a very useful and profitable thing to observe the motions and deportments of the spirits of wise and holy men, in all the various postures and conditions they are in ; it is for that purpose they are drawn out to us in the Scriptures. There are some graces that are more proper, and come more in action in times of ease and prosperity, such as tem-. perance, moderation of mind, humility, and compassion. Others are more proper for times of distress, as faith, fortitude, patience, and resignation. It is very expedient, if not necessary, that affliction have its turns, and frequently in the lives of the children of God: it is the tempest that gives evidence of the pilot's skill; and as the Lord delighteth in all his works, looks on the frame and conduct in all things with pleasure, so he is delighted to look on this part, on this low sea of troubles, to see his champions meet with hard and pressing trials, such as sometimes do not only make them feel them, but do often make the conflict dubious to them, that they seem to be almost foiled; yet do they acquit themselves, and come off with honour. It is not the excellency of grace to be insensible in trouble, (as some .philosphers would have their wise men), but to overcome and be victorious.
Among the rest of this holy man's troubles, this was one, that the wicked did reproach him: this is a sharp arrow, that flies thick in the world. It is